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Estate Management and Inflation: The Honor of Gloucester, 1183–12631

  • Paul Latimer


Long ago, in an ambitious and valuable study, Sidney Painter sought to trace the progress of incomes from the estates of lay baronies between 1086 and 1350. While Painter suggested that some of the nominal growth in baronial incomes he found represented a real increase, especially before 1250, he was astute enough to realise that at least most of the nominal growth had probably arisen from price increases. Since Painter wrote, opinions about the success or otherwise of estate management in outpacing or at least matching rises in prices during the period of the “long thirteenth century” have differed considerably, from the decidedly optimistic to the somewhat pessimistic.

This is certainly an important question. If the fortunes of landlords cannot tell us directly about the fortunes of peasants, they can, in conjunction with a view of the progress of the economy as a whole, throw some light on the relationship between the two groups. Dealing largely with the aggregates of the incomes of entire honours, as Painter did, is a pragmatic and useful approach. However, it does have the disadvantage of conflating two questions: the success or failure of a family or institution in preserving or increasing its estates, and their success or otherwise in preserving or increasing the real profits of individual holdings.



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An earlier version of this paper was delivered at the Haskins Society Conference in November 1998.



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2 Painter, Sidney, Studies in the History of the English Feudal Barony (Baltimore, 1943), pp. 157–79. There is still no comprehensive and consistent survey of the incomes of ecclesiastical estates, though much work has been done on the estates of individual institutions for various periods. For a small sample, see Dyer, Christopher, Standards of living in the later Middle Ages: Social change in England c.1200–1250 (Cambridge, 1989), p. 36.

3 Painter, , Studies, pp. 161–62.

4 From the most optimistic to the least: Bolton, J. L., The Medieval English Economy 1150–1500 (London, 1980), p. 95; Postan, M. M., The Medieval Economy and Society (London, 1972), pp. 167–68; Miller, Edward and Hatcher, John, Medieval England: Rural Society and Economic Change, 1086–1348 (London, 1978), pp. 227–29; Bridbury, A. R., “Introduction,” in The English Economy from Bede to the Reformation (Woodbridge, 1992), p. 28. For a recent example of the difficulties a monastic institution could experience in making real profits in the inflationary circumstances of the early fourteenth century, see Mate, Mavis, “Coping with inflation: a fourteenth-century example,” Journal of Medieval History 4 (1978): 95105.

5 Two of the few examples Painter did give at a lower level—Tewkesbury and Thornbury—were in fact from the Honor of Gloucester (Studies, p. 167).

6 Harvey, P. D. A., “The English Inflation of 1180–1220,” Past and Present 61 (1973): 3–4, 1519; Latimer, P., “Early Thirteenth Century Prices,” in King John: New Interpretations, ed. Church, S. D. (Woodbridge, 1999), pp. 4173; Latimer, P., “Wages in Late Twelfth- and Early Thirteenth-Century England,” Haskins Society Journal 9 (1997): 204–05.

7 For these prices, and those of other grains and livestock, see Farmer, D. L., “Prices and Wages” in The Agrarian History of England and Wales, Vol 2, 1042–1348, ed. Hallam, H. E. (Cambridge, 1988), pp. 787–89, 799803. For other prices, see Ibid., pp. 807–08 and Latimer, “Early Thirteenth Century Prices,” pp. 63–68, 70–73.

8 There has been extensive comment on this topic. See particularly: Miller, Edward, “England in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries: An Economic Contrast?,” Economic History Review, 2nd ser., 24 (1971): 114; Postan, , The Medieval Economy and Society, pp. 9699; Reed, C. G. and Anderson, T. L., “An Economic Explanation of English Agricultural Organization in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries,” EcHR 26 (1973): 134–37; Miller, Edward, “Farming of Manors and Direct Management,” EcHR 26 (1973): 138–40; Harvey, , “The English Inflation of 1180–1220,” pp. 39; Idem, “The Pipe Rolls and the Adoption of Demesne Farming in England,” EcHR 27 (1974): 345-59; Bridbury, A. R., “The Farming Out of Manors,” EcHR 31 (1978): 514–19; Mate, Mavis, “The farming out of manors: a new look at the evidence from Canterbury Cathedral Priory,” Journal of Medieval History 9 (1983): 331–32; Biddick, Kathleen, The Other Economy: Pastoral Husbandry on a Medieval Estate (Berkeley, 1989), pp. 5051; Idem, “People and Things: Power in Early English Development,” Comparative Studies of Society and History 32 (1990): 8–12; Bridbury, , “Introduction,” pp. 2127; Dyer, Christopher, “Lords, Peasants, and the Development of the Manor: England, 900–1200,” in England and Germany in the High Middle Ages, eds. Haverkamp, A. and Vollrath, Hanna (Oxford, 1996), p. 312; Bolton, J. L., “The English Economy in the Early Thirteenth Century,” in King John: New Interpretations, pp. 2730. For a recent argument against inflation as the primary cause of a shift to direct management, see Latimer, P., “The English Inflation of 1180–1220 Reconsidered,” Past and Present 171 (2000): 56.

9 It is not clear what happened to the manors of the earldom of Gloucester that were still in royal hands after Easter 1208—apart from Bristol and Barton (Glos.), which do continue to appear on the Pipe Rolls. A possible solution is suggested by a reference to the manor of Cheltenham being put under the control of Gerard d'Athée in the summer of 1208. The baillia that he obtained did not subsequently account at the exchequer (P.R.. 10 John, p. 114).

10 Close Rolls of the Reign of Henry III Preserved in the Public Record Office: 1261–64 (London, 1936), pp. 284–93.

11 Harvey, P. D. A., “The Pipe Rolls and the Adoption of Demesne Farming in England,” pp. 345–59.

12 Ibid., p. 354. Bridbury's perhaps over-skeptical re-reading of Harvey's evidence might, one hopes, provoke such work rather than discourage it (“Introduction,” p. 23).

13 For the history of the descent of the honor of Gloucester see Earldom of Gloucester Charters: The Charters and Scribes of the Earls and Countesses of Gloucester to A.D. 1217, ed. Patterson, R. B. (Oxford, 1973), pp. 59.

14 P.R. 30 Henry II, pp. 108–12. The account for the year 1183–84 is broken into two half-year accounts, with a change of accountants from Robert de Witefeld and Helias de Clivelay to Hugh Bardulf.

15 Harvey, , “The Pipe Rolls and the Adoption of Demesne Farming in England,” p. 356.

16 Ibid, p.353; P.R. 31 Henry II, pp. 154–55; P.R.. 32 Henry II, pp. 200–01.

17 What was or was not included in leases seems to have been capable of considerable variation. Certainly the manor court could be excluded, but also other sources of income: Bridbury, , “Introduction,” p. 22; Lennard, Reginald, Rural England 1086–1135: A Study of Social and Agrarian Conditions (Oxford, 1959), pp. 199202.

18 The figures are made up as: 1183–84: fixed renders of manors at farm + issues of Bristol + fixed renders in cash of manors in custody £567 19s. 10d.; Perquisites £71 15s. 10d.; Produce sales etc £144 11s. 5d.; Third Penny £20 0s. Od. = total of £804 7s. 1d.. 1184–85: farms of the manors at farm in Earl William's time £251 12s. 0d.; Perquisites of those manors £13 Is. 5d.; Fixed renders of manors in custody before the justices' arrival £166 0s. 8d.; Perquisites of those manors £59 5s. 5d.; Produce sales £114 14s. 3d., Issues of Bristol £119 7s. 5d. = total of £723 14s. 2d. 1185–86: farm of the honor £550 7s. 2d. + Issues of Bristol £134 4s. 9d. = total of £684 11s. 11d.

19 P.R. 34 Henry II, p. 14.

20 Expenses in 1183–84 such as the purchase of seed (£11 13s. 3d.), the repairs to houses, manorial servants' wages and harvesting cost (£11 5s. 8d.) and the victuals of servants living on the manors (£10 15s. 0d.), and in 1184–85 such as purchase of seed (£7 4s. 9d.), money for servants on the manors and costs of carrying agriculture (£16 9s. 2d.) and payments to those supervising agriculture (£10 0s. 0d.), would seem to be largely avoidable under a leasing regime.

21 Farmer, “Prices and Wages,” pp. 787–78.

22 See the stock purchases made in the presence of the justices who were to put the manors out to farm (P.R. 31 Henry II, p. 155).

23 Lennard, , Rural England, pp. 189–92.

24 For example, it seems that the forests and parks of the honor were excluded from the leases and that payment of foresters and park-keepers was the lessor's responsibility (P.R. 32 Henry II, p. 200).

25 P.R. 6 Richard I, pp. 240–41.

26 P.R. 1 John, pp. 27–28, 35–37; P.R. 2 John, pp. 126–28; P.R. 3 John, pp. 53–57; P.R. 4 John, pp. 180–81, 279–83; P.R. 5 John, pp. 40–41, 64; P.R. 6 John, pp. 159, 230–31; P.R. 7 John, pp 92, 101–05; P.R. 8 John, pp. 16–19; P.R. 9 John, pp. 216–21; P.R. 10 John, pp. 20–21, 114–15.

27 Great Marlow (Bucks.), valued at over £90 in 1263, was in the hands of Amaury count of Evreux probably even before his recognition as earl of Gloucester, and even when his lands were confiscated, was treated separately and not on the Pipe Rolls (Close Rolls 1261–64, p. 286; Earldom of Gloucester Charters, p. 7).

28 Harris, B. E., “King John and the Sheriffs' Farms,” English Historical Review 79 (1964): 532–42. See also, Barratt, N., “The Revenue of King John,” English Historical Review 111 (1996): 848–49.

29 P.R. 4 John, p. 281.

30 P.R. 5 John, p. 41. The possibility of using seed from the previous year's crop instead of or in addition to purchased seed complicates the picture.

31 See, the stock costing over £87 bought in 1198–99, over £17 in 1202–03, over £8 in 1204–05, and over £14 in 1206–07 as well as other smaller purchases (P.R. 1 John, p. 36; P.R. 5 John, p. 41; P.R. 7 John, p. 103; P.R. 9 John, p. 219).

32 P.R. 1 John, p. 36; P.R. 2 John, p. 128; P.R. 3 John, p. 55; P.R. 4 John, p. 281; P.R. 5 John, p. 41; P.R. 6 John, p. 230; P.R. 7 John, p. 103; P.R. 8 John, p. 18; P.R. 9 John, p. 219.

33 Britnell, R. H., The Commercialisation of English Society 1000–1500, pp. 7985.

34 P.R. 31 Henry II, p. 154; P.R. 32 Henry II, p. 201; P.R. 33 Henry II, p. 15; P.R. 34 Henry II, p. 14.

35 Beresford, M. W. and Finberg, H. P. R., English Medieval Boroughs: a Hand-list (Newton Abbot, 1973), pp. 104, 113, 116, 119, 128, 147; Earldom of Gloucester Charters, nos. 42–43, 160–61. Rodney Hilton discusses the role of small towns and boroughs in relation to the economy and society as a whole, with special reference to Thornbury (Class Conflict and the Crisis of Feudalism [London, 1985], pp. 102–04).

36 There was a decline in the income from tolls and customs at Warham from 1203–04 onwards, perhaps an effect of the loss of Normandy.

37 Complaints about such behavior on estates in wardship are reflected in clauses four and five of Magna Carta in 1215 (Holt, J. C., Magna Carta, [2nd ed.; Cambridge, 1992], pp. 450–53).

38 Dyer, , “Lords, Peasants, and the Development of the Manor,” pp. 312–13; Bridbury, , “Introduction,” pp. 2123.

39 For an early example of a non-royal tallage, note the financial exactions made by the earl of Arundel on his non-military tenants in the 1170 Inquest of Sheriffs (The Red Book of the Exchequer, ed. Hall, H., 3 vols. [London, 1896], 2: Appendix A, pp. cclxviicclxix).

40 P.R. 1 John, p. 35; P.R. 4 John, p. 280; P.R. 6 John, p. 230; P.R. 9 John, p. 219.

41 P.R 1 John, p. 35; P.R. 4 John, p. 280; P.R. 5 John, p. 41; P.R. 8 John, p. 18.

42 P.R. 7 Richard I, p. 182; P.R. 10 Richard I, p. 7.

43 P.R. 5 John, p. 64; P.R. 7 John, p. 101; P.R. 8 John, p. 17.

44 Harvey, , “The English Inflation of 1180–1220,” p. 13.

45 On the monetisation of the economy, see P. Latimer, “The Quantity of Money in England 1180–1247: a Model” (forthcoming in Journal of European Economic History). Bridbury has already commented on the possibility of landlords substituting tallage as a means of increasing revenue in place of more active management of demesnes (“Introduction,” p. 28).

46 These issues were highlighted by Brenner, Robert, “Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe,” in The Brenner Debate: Agrarian Class Structure and Economic Development in Pre-industrial Europe, ed. Aston, T. H. and Philpin, C. H. E. (Cambridge, 1985), pp. 22, 3234. For a contrary view, replying to Brenner and stressing the limitations to the exploitation of seigneurial rights, see M. M. Postan and John Hatcher, “Population and Class relations in Feudal Society,” in ibid., pp. 73–75.

47 Thomas, Hugh M., “Subinfeudation and Alienation of land, Economic Development, and the Wealth of Nobles on the Honor of Richmond, 1066 to c. 1300,” Albion 26 (1994): 415–16.

48 Painter was well aware of this (Studies, p. 170).

49 P.R. 30 Henry II, pp. 110–11; P.R. 31 Henry II, p. 155; P.R. 32 Henry II, p. 201; P.R. 33 Henry II, pp. 15–16; P.R. 34 Henry II, p. 15.

1 An earlier version of this paper was delivered at the Haskins Society Conference in November 1998.

Estate Management and Inflation: The Honor of Gloucester, 1183–12631

  • Paul Latimer


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